Absence from work due to sickness costs employers and the economy billions every year. It also has a negative impact on employees’ health and well being. Often employers are unsure as to the best way to deal with sickness absence. The Scottish Government and DWP have therefore jointly introduced a new service called Fit for Work Scotland, which aims to assist employers and employees to manage sickness absence.
Fit for Work Scotland will help individuals, employers and GPs by providing:
- access to quality, independent advice and a specialist work-focussed assessment;
- a free and easy to use rapid early intervention service;
- recommendations on workplace adjustments;
- help with developing a return to work plan;
- assistance in managing employees’ expectations about the impact of their condition on their fitness for work;
- support around absence prevention;
- the opportunity for employers to claim a tax exemption on payments of up to £500 a year per employee to fund any recommended adjustments.
Studies have shown that intervention in sickness absence at an early stage is key and the longer an employee is off work, the lower their chances of ever returning to work; therefore it is in everyone’s best interests to work together. The details of the scheme can be found here.
The service will be particularly useful to small and medium sized businesses who have limited access to occupational health.
It is important for employers to have a clear policy in place which explains to employees how the organisation will manage absence from work. It is also very important to be mindful of potential disability discrimination if an employee has a condition which might qualify as a disability under equality legislation.